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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 190, Part II, 29 September 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 190, Part II, 29 September 1999

A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern
Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the
staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

This is Part II, a compilation of news concerning Central,
Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Part I covers Russia,
Transcaucasia and Central Asia and is distributed
simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL
Newsline and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web
site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline

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Headlines, Part II

* BELARUSIAN INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER TO APPEAR UNDER NEW NAME

* TWO DEAD IN EXPLOSION AT MARKET PLACE IN KOSOVA

* UN ENVOY TO BALKANS SAYS BOSNIA TOO DEPENDENT ON AID

End Note: LUKASHENKA PREFERS MONOLOGUE
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

BELARUSIAN INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER TO APPEAR UNDER NEW NAME.
Law enforcement officials on 28 September seized from a Minsk
printing house paper and other property belonging to the
independent newspaper "Naviny," Belapan reported. They
explained their action by saying that a Minsk court ordered
"Naviny" to pay 15 billion Belarusian rubles ($52,000) in
damages to State Security Council Secretary Viktar Sheyman
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 1999). "Sheyman does not
need that money, he needs to close our newspaper, because we
could pay the fine if we continued to publish and sell the
newspaper," "Naviny" chief editor Pavel Zhuk commented. Zhuk
added that the editorial office intends to print the last
issue of "Naviny" on 29 September and resume publishing the
newspaper under the name of "Nasha svaboda" (Our Freedom).
"Naviny" appeared in fall 1997 as the successor to "Svaboda,"
which had been banned by the authorities. JM

KUCHMA BACKS REFERENDUM ON CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES. Ukrainian
President Leonid Kuchma and the Union of the Regional and
Local Authority Leaders signed a declaration on 27 September
to initiate a referendum on the introduction of amendments to
the constitution, ITAR-TASS reported. Kuchma is in favor of a
bicameral parliament and believes that this issue should be
submitted to a referendum. According to Kuchma, the
constitution should also be approved in a referendum to put a
stop to lawmakers' seeking to "raise the issue of
constitutional changes at each parliamentary session." Kuchma
also thinks that it is necessary to define more clearly the
powers of executive and legislative authorities and give more
power to the regions. JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES TARIFFS. The government on 28
September approved a package of customs tariffs, which are to
go into effect on 1 January 2000. The imposition of such
tariffs is in sharp contrast to the liberal trade policies
championed by members of the three-party ruling coalition
over the past few years, especially Prime Minister Mart Laar.
The duties will apply to countries with which Estonia does
not have a free-trade agreement, including Russia and the
U.S. "Postimees" reported that food prices could increase in
January by 5-15 percent as a result to the tariffs. Prime
Minister Laar believes 90 million kroons ($6 million) will be
collected from such tariffs, since the affected countries
account for one-third of Estonian trade. MH

ESTONIA TO BE PLUNGED INTO DARKNESS AT MILLENNIUM TRANSITION?
As Estonia's power grid remains connected to the system in
northwestern Russia, a failure on the Russian side owing to
the "millennium bug" could disrupt power supplies in Estonia.
According to Eesti Energia, the "worst case scenario" would
cause disruption for 30 minutes--as the company says it can
restore full power usage within that time, according to
"Eesti Paevaleht" and ETA. Eesti Energia itself noted that it
has taken precautions against the possible local problems and
has worked out a deal to acquire emergency hydroelectricity
from Russia's Lenenergo if necessary. However, as the power
grid extends across several time zones to the Urals and the
large nuclear facilities there, Eesti Energia could face
disruption anytime after 6:00 p.m. local time on 31 December.
MH

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES IN PRINCIPLE GOVERNMENT'S
ENERGY STRATEGY. Lawmakers on 28 September approved a
resolution supporting in principle the government's draft
energy strategy, which calls for the shutdown of the first
unit at the Ignalina nuclear power plant by 2005. The
resolution was approved by a vote of 61 to 16, "Lietuvos
Rytas" and ELTA reported. However, the resolution firmly
states that the shutdown must be conditional on receiving
generous foreign aid for that purpose--a condition strongly
advocated by former Premier Gediminas Vagnorius. The
opposition either voted against the resolution or abstained.
MH

COALITION PARTNER DISPLEASED WITH POLISH PREMIER. Jerzy
Wierchowicz, head of the parliamentary caucus of the Freedom
Union (UW), warned on 28 September that the UW may seek to
oust Premier Jerzy Buzek, a member of the Solidarity
Electoral Action, unless it get its way over an impending
cabinet reshuffle and next year's budget draft, Reuters
reported. Jan Litynski, another UW parliamentary deputy, told
Polish Radio the same day that Buzek "is giving up ruling in
favor of drifting." According to Litynski, "there should be a
general change in the method of ruling that is linked with a
change of team" but does not imply a "change of coalition."
Buzek is expected to make a decision on a cabinet reshuffle
this week. JM

FOUR CZECH PARTIES TO WORK TOGETHER. Four opposition parties
have announced that they will work together both before and
after the next parliamentary elections, Czech media reported
on 28 September. The leaders of the Christian Democrats, the
Freedom Union, the Civic Democratic Alliance, and the
Democratic Union made the announcement at a joint press
conference. VG

CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS DEAL WITH SCANDALS. The Social
Democratic parliamentary group on 28 September gave an
overwhelming vote of confidence to its chairman, Stanislav
Gross, Czech media reported. Gross had offered to resign as
chairman of the group and as deputy chairman of the Chamber
of Deputies after reports surfaced that he had allowed a
private company to pay for his cell phone (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 27 September 1999). However, recent reports
indicate that Petra Buzkova, the party's most popular
politician, also used a cell phone in the same manner. "Mlada
fronta Dnes" reported on 29 September that the Chemapol group
gave the party payment cards for purchasing gas during the
1996 election campaign. The party did not declare the gift
and did not pay taxes on it. Many observers see the various
scandals in the context of a power struggle within the party.
VG

EU WELCOMES SLOVAK NUCLEAR PLANT DECISION. The EU on 28
September welcomed Slovakia's decision to shut down two
reactors at the V1 block of the Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear
power plant between 2006 and 2008, Reuters reported. A
European Commission spokesman said Slovakia might be entitled
to a 20 million euro ($21 million) loan to assist with the
closures. However, Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima said
Bratislava's decision is unacceptable for his country. Klima
sent letters to the EU member-states and Slovakia explaining
Austria's position and calling for talks on the issue
"immediately." He also stressed Austria's stance that "there
can be no EU entry with unsafe nuclear reactors." VG

SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER VISITS SLOVAKIA. Vuk Draskovic,
leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, arrived in Bratislava
on 28 September for talks with Prime Minister Mikulas
Dzurinda and other Slovak leaders, TKE reported. Draskovic
noted that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is holding
"an umbrella above Albanian terrorism." He also noted
tendencies in Hungary to "rekindle the times of the former
empires," although he added that such tendencies are not
officially supported by the Hungarian government. CTK
reported that during Draskovic's previous visit to Prague, he
held talks with U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic John
Shattuck. The U.S. embassy in Prague refused to give any
details about the meeting, saying it took place "in the
context of meetings between U.S. officials and various
Serbian opposition leaders." VG

HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER MEETS CIA, FBI LEADERS. Viktor Orban
on 28 September held talks in Budapest with CIA head George
Tenet and FBI Director Louis Freeh on cooperation between the
Hungarian and U.S. secret services, Hungarian media report.
The talks focused on organized crime, money laundering by the
"Russian mafia," and European security issues. Hungarian
Interior Minister Sandor Pinter and Freeh signed an agreement
granting the Hungarian police access to FBI databases on
stolen cars, boats, and license plates. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

TWO DEAD IN EXPLOSION AT MARKET IN KOSOVA. Two Serbs were
killed and at least 40 people wounded when two rifle-
propelled grenades landed in a crowded market outside Kosovo
Polje on 28 September, AFP reported. NATO-led peacekeeping
forces in Kosova (KFOR) arrested four people suspected of
being involved in the attack. Local Serbs, who make up the
majority of the people in the area, blockaded a road between
the town and Prishtina's airport to protest what they say is
a lack of security. Bernard Kouchner, head of the UN mission
in Kosova, said "this outrageous attack against innocent
civilians puts in danger all efforts at building democracy in
Kosovo." Stanimir Vukicevic, head of a Yugoslav government
liaison with KFOR, said "this extremely inhuman act of
madness is the consequence of KFOR and [the UN mission's]
tolerant and benevolent attitude toward the terrorist Kosovo
Liberation Army." PB

THACI REASSURES TURKISH MINORITY. Kosovar Albanian leader
Hashim Thaci told a group of ethnic Turks on 28 September
that they are welcome in Kosova and will help build a "free
and democratic Kosova," the Albanian news agency ATA
reported. Thaci made his comments in the village of Mamusha,
near Prizren, which has an ethnic Turkish majority. Thaci
said that Mamusha's "sons will join the protective troops of
Kosova." Thaci said during a meeting with officials in the
village that his goal is to establish a mission at the UN and
allow the Kosova Protection Corps to participate "in NATO
mechanisms in the framework of [its] Partnership for Peace"
program. PB

DOLE SAYS INDEPENDENCE COULD BE ATTAINED. In Washington,
former U.S. Senator Bob Dole told the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee on 28 September that if Kosovar leaders
hold free elections, renounce violence, and move toward a
market economy, "then I believe independence will be
forthcoming and should be," AP reported. Dole criticized the
U.S. for not "acting against [Yugoslav President Slobodan]
Milosevic much earlier." Dole served as an envoy to Kosova
for President Bill Clinton earlier this year. At the White
House, Clinton said "what we have supported for Kosovo and
what we continue to support is autonomy." PB

LARGE RALLY IN NIS AS THOUSANDS PROTEST ACROSS SERBIA.
Between 15,000-20,000 people gathered in Serbia's second-
largest city, Nis, on 28 September to call on President
Milosevic to resign, the Beta news agency reported. Some 20
opposition rallies were held throughout Serbia the same day.
Only 10,000 or so turned out in Belgrade, far fewer than the
55,000 who demonstrated on 25 September. Speaking in Nis,
Alliance for Change leader Zoran Djindjic said "the Serbian
system cannot be altered by talks, only by action." He
derided Milosevic for "ruining the country" over the last
decade. Organizers said a march on Milosevic's home in the
Belgrade district of Dedinje will be held on 29 September.
Police, who until now have kept a low profile at Belgrade
rallies, are expected to try to prevent the march as they did
during protests in 1991 and in 1996-1997. PB

MILOSEVIC MAKES RARE APPEARANCE TO REOPEN REFINERY...
President Milosevic made a rare appearance on 28 September to
speak at the reopening of an oil refinery in Pancevo that was
destroyed by NATO air strikes, AP reported. Milosevic told
company officials and employees that "in a year, two, or
three, things will be better." He said "throughout these
seven years of sanctions and even during the time of the
brutal bombings we have been achieving [constant] progress."
Milosevic was accompanied by Serbian President Milan
Milutinovic, Serbian Premier Mirko Marjanovic, Serbian
parliamentary speaker Dragan Tomic, and other officials. PB

...AS SERBIAN PATRIARCH URGES HIM TO GO TO THE HAGUE. Serbian
Orthodox Patriarch Pavle said on 28 September that President
Milosevic should "resign peacefully so that people who enjoy
the trust of the world can step in," Pancevo Radio reported.
Pavle, speaking in the Kosovar town of Gorazdevac, said "it
is clear at the moment that it is as if we are in a prison,
behind a wall. There are no political, economic, or social
ties with any other country." Pavle said he "would rather
die...than [be] a true war criminal and have them say I'm a
hero." PB

UN ENVOY TO BALKANS SAYS BOSNIA TOO DEPENDENT ON AID. Carl
Bildt said in Washington on 28 September that Bosnia-
Herzegovina has been given too much unconditional aid by the
West, Reuters reported. Bildt said he fears that the Bosnian
economy would collapse if foreign aid were to be withdrawn.
Bildt also criticized Bosnian leaders, saying "they have not
been willing to undertake economic reforms. We have not been
sufficiently tough with them." In other news, Alija
Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of Bosnia's presidency, said
upon returning from a trip to the Middle East on 28 September
that it "was first and foremost a visit to friends of Bosnia-
Herzegovina." He said the visit did not violate any rules of
the presidency. PB

HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT PROPOSES COOPERATION WITH CROATIA. Arpad
Goencz, speaking in Zagreb on 28 September, pledged greater
cooperation between his country and Croatia and praised the
situation of ethnic Hungarians in Croatia, MTI reported on 28
September. Goencz told Croatian Premier Zlatko Matesa in
Zagreb that cross-border cooperation between Hungarian and
Croatian regions should be developed. He also praised state
support for ethnic Hungarian communities in Croatia. Matesa
said he is hopeful that a free trade agreement between the
two countries will be signed soon. Goencz also met with
representatives of six Croatian opposition parties during his
two-day visit. PB

ALBANIA RATIFIES COUNCIL OF EUROPE CONVENTION ON MINORITIES.
Albania formally ratified the Council of Europe Convention on
the protection of ethnic minorities on 28 September, ATA
reported. Albania's ambassador to the Council of Europe,
Fotaq Andrea, handed the ratification documents to Council of
Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer in Tirana. The
convention demands that members "ensure an effective equality
between minorities and the majority, to ensure the necessary
conditions for developing culture and preserving the identity
of national minorities." Albania's ethnic Greeks constitute
the country's largest minority, accounting for 3 percent of
the population. PB

NATO FORCES CONDUCT EXERCISES IN ALBANIA. Troops from NATO's
Albanian Force 2 (AFOR 2) began exercises in Albania on 28
September, ATA reported. The exercises are being held in
conjunction with the Defense Ministry in Tirana and are code-
named Caravan of Friendship 99. They are aimed at promoting
communication and infrastructure capacities in rural areas of
the country. Also on 28 September, Albania's defense
minister, Luan Haidaraga, met with the commander of the
German contingent in Kosova, General Freidrich Riechman. They
discussed cooperation between AFOR 2 and Albanian forces as
well the situation in Kosova. PB

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT VISITS FRANCE. French President Jacques
Chirac told his visiting Romanian counterpart, Emil
Constantinescu, that France will push to have Romania invited
to accession negotiations with the EU at the December summit
in Helsinki, according to a Rompres report cited by the BBC.
The two presidents emphasized the warm historical relations
between their two countries. Constantinescu called on French
companies to invest in Romania, noting that his country's
economy is steadily improving in several areas. Chirac added
that trade between the two countries has been growing by an
average of 30 percent every year. France is Romania's chief
trading partner and main source of foreign investments. VG

TWO LEGISLATORS QUIT ROMANIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY. Senator Radu
Alexandru and Deputy George Serban on 28 September announced
their resignation from the Democratic Party (PD). Alexandru
said he has "reached the limits of humiliation and nonsense
imposed by the entire PD leadership and especially by PD
President Petre Roman," Romanian Radio reported. VG

EU TO GIVE CREDIT, AID TO MOLDOVA. By the end of this year,
the EU will provide Moldova with a 15 million euro ($15.7
million) credit line and humanitarian assistance totaling 2.2
million euros, Infotag reported on 28 September. Timo Summa,
the head of an EU delegation visiting Moldova, said the
previous day that he is satisfied with the Moldovan
government's efforts to continue the reform process. In other
news, Moldovan Prime Minister Ion Sturza and Romanian Defense
Minister Victor Babiuc attended a ceremony to officially open
a new border crossing linking the Moldovan village of
Costesti to the Romanian village of Stinca. The new crossing
is part of a transport corridor that will link Turkey with
Europe. VG

BULGARIAN PREMIER COMMENTS ON NUCLEAR PLANT. Ivan Kostov said
he does not think the Soviet-made Kozloduy nuclear power
plant will become a stumbling block to Bulgaria's entry into
the EU, according to a BTA report cited by the BBC. Kostov
said the time-frame for the closure of four reactors at the
plant will be set within a month. He said the decision will
be partly based on whatever financial support the country
receives for the closures. Kostov added that he is satisfied
with Bulgaria's discussions on the issue with the European
Commission. In other news, the cabinet on 28 September held a
special meeting to discuss a plan to reform the Bulgarian
military. VG

END NOTE

LUKASHENKA PREFERS MONOLOGUE

By Jan Maksymuik

The OSCE-mediated talks between the authorities and the
opposition in Belarus seem to be nearing an end even without
having really begun. That, at least, is the perception of
commentators in Belarus's independent press, based on
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's 16 September meeting with
the leaders of power ministries and law enforcement bodies
and subsequent developments.
	At that meeting, Lukashenka took advantage of the public
anxiety that followed the blasts in Moscow and Volgodonsk, in
southern Russia, by ordering his subordinates to take tough
security measures to prevent terrorist attacks in Belarus.
According to Lukashenka, Belarus faces a threat not from
elements in Russia but from domestic "extremists" and
"nationalists" who intend "to destabilize" the situation in
Belarus.
	In particular, Lukashenka ordered the border guards and
customs officers to monitor the border so that "a mouse could
not creep through it." He demanded that the authorities of
Minsk and other cities identify venues where "all kinds of
oppositionists and other scum" can hold demonstrations;
protests in all other locations were to be banned.
	Lukashenka demanded that within the next three days, the
state-controlled media inform the public both at home and
abroad where "Belarusian nationalists" find money "to
destabilize" the situation in Belarus. And he also ordered
his administration to close down those newspapers that
"assail state officials" without good reason, pointing to an
allegedly libelous article about State Security Secretary
Viktar Sheyman in the opposition newspaper "Naviny."
	The disappearance of opposition politician Viktar
Hanchar several hours after the 16 September meeting is seen
as an ominous indication of events to come in Belarus as a
result of Lukashenka's instructions. As deputy chairman of
the opposition Supreme Soviet and organizer of the
alternative presidential elections in May, Hanchar fell into
the category of domestic "extremists." The opposition regard
Hanchar's disappearance as a kidnapping organized by the
authorities to intimidate political opponents of the current
regime. Hanchar was to have presided over a Supreme Soviet
session on 19 September at which the opposition delegation to
the talks with the authorities was to have been approved.
	Shortly after Hanchar's disappearance, law officers
seized property belonging to "Naviny" and the author of the
allegedly defamatory article about Sheyman, without waiting
for a court order. Sheyman duly filed suit against "Naviny,"
demanding exorbitant damages (under Belarusian economic
conditions) totaling 15 billion Belarusian rubles
($52,000).Two days later, a Minsk court ruled in Sheyman's
favor. "Naviny", which turns a monthly profit of some $2,700,
now faces closure.
	Western ambassadors to Minsk who expressed their concern
over Hanchar's disappearance met with Lukashenka's response
that they should look for Hanchar in the West before alluding
to any sinister goings-on in Belarus. Echoing a high-ranking
official in the presidential administration, official media
said Hanchar staged his disappearance in order to gain more
publicity. But as protests have increased around the globe,
Minsk has launched an investigation into both Hanchar's
disappearance and that of former Interior Minister Yury
Zakharanka in May.
	The latest developments in Belarus highlight some
unanswered questions about Lukashenka's regime and the
attitude of Western democracies toward it.
	First, was Lukashenka's declaration to enter into a
dialogue with the opposition really sincere? Or was he
perhaps acting on a political calculation--as some Belarusian
commentators suggest--to "simulate" negotiations in order to
gain legitimacy for himself and his government in the West?
"I have few illusions that we will be able to conduct talks
with Lukashenka. He prefers to give endless monologues,"
Stanislau Bahdankevich, head of the opposition United Civic
Party, noted in mid-August. Judging from developments since
then, Bahdankevich was right.
	Second, has the OSCE--the proponent of political
dialogue in Belarus--any leverage to make that dialogue
happen? The answer again appears to be "no." Lukashenka's
regime has not created any conditions for a "favorable
political climate," as requested by the Belarusian opposition
ahead of the OSCE-mediated talks. Those conditions included
access to the state-run media for the opposition and the
release of former Premier Mikhail Chyhir and other political
prisoners. In fact, the political climate in Belarus has
become even more oppressive than was the case before the
preparations for the dialogue began.
	Third, what should be done by the West to promote
democracy in Belarus, which is overtly defying Western
political and moral values? Belarus offers embarrassing and
puzzling proof of a regime in Europe that suppresses
political opponents and tramples on human rights while
enjoying a substantial measure of popular support and
remaining virtually unpunished in the international arena.
Unlike Turkmenistan, which engages in similiar practices with
impunity, Belarus has no strategic reserves of natural gas.
	In this context, any Western response to Lukashenka's
latest challenge will reflect not only the measure of his
credibility in the international arena. It will also attest
to the West's commitment to promoting democracy where it is
so sadly lacking and so desperately needed.

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